If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. So goes the logic of Sony Online Entertainment today as it opens up Station Exchange, an official, secure online marketplace for players to buy and sell items, characters, and currency from SOE's massively multiplayer online role-playing game EverQuest II.
Although the Station Exchange site has been up since last week, today at 3pm PDT marks the first chance for players not involved with the prelaunch testing to engage in trading real money for EverQuest II items with Sony's approval.
Before the announcement of the Station Exchange launch, Sony had voiced disapproval of the practice of trading real-world money for in-game goods. The company sued online retailers that accepted cash for in-game items from SOE's titles and blocked online auction sites from listing such items, insisting that such trade infringed on the company's intellectual property.
Sony's unofficial estimate of the current market for underground game items begins at $100 million per year but likely reaches much higher, with articles related to its own games making up about 20 percent of those sales. Cutting back on the amount of fraud associated with the unsanctioned secondary market was one of Sony's cited reasons for establishing Station Exchange, which will guarantee players that they receive anything they win at auction on the site.
As a promotion to get players to try the service, Sony is allowing EverQuest II subscribers to move their existing characters to the Station Exchange servers (Shadowhaven or The Bazaar) with all items except those in their shared bank for free until August 3.